Is there more than meets the eye in Palace vape ban?

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - By MB SPECIAL RE­PORTS TEAM

Whether it's by chance or by de­sign, Pres­i­dent Duterte just made a big move in steer­ing away Filipino youth from a mar­i­juana-laced va­p­ing craze that could po­ten­tially snuff out lives.

But if the sup­posed in­tel­li­gence re­ports reach­ing Mala­cañang is con­sis­tent with the dis­turb­ing tip that the Manila Bul­letin re­ceived, then it's more likely that the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in­tended to nip that deadly craze in the bud.

It was late last month when Pres­i­dent Duterte, in a sur­prise an­nounce­ment, or­dered the ban on the pub­lic use and im­por­ta­tion of va­p­ing prod­ucts, in­clud­ing e-cig­a­rettes. Suf­fice it

to say that it caught the lo­cal va­p­ing com­mu­nity – of which there are many pro­po­nents – off-guard.

"It is toxic, and gov­ern­ment has the power to is­sue mea­sures to pro­tect pub­lic health and pub­lic in­ter­est. Bet­ter stop it be­cause I will or­der your ar­rest if you do it in a room. I am or­der­ing the law en­force­ment agen­cies to ar­rest any­body va­p­ing in pub­lic,” the Pres­i­dent said.

Ac­cord­ing to Ven­zon (not his real name), 36, an in­for­mant who reached out to this daily, liq­uid mar­i­juana has al­ready found its way to Metro Manila, hav­ing per­son­ally sam­pled the sub­stance dur­ing-guess what? A vape party.

Ven­zon, a former drug de­pen­dent, said he was in­vited by a friend and he at­tended out of cu­rios­ity. He said the peo­ple at the venue, which was in Que­zon City, "were mostly mid­dle-aged in­di­vid­u­als who ap­peared well-to-do."

"I was handed a va­p­ing de­vice by my friend. He told me to give it a try, 'ibang klase yan, pare (that's a dif­fer­ent kind, com­padre),' he told me. I took only one puff, and I was 'high.' I in­stantly knew what it was," Ven­zon nar­rated.

De­cid­ing to play dumb, Ven­zon asked his friend what it was. "'Chongke,' he told me. He boasted that one of these 'special' car­tridges alone costs P5,000," the in­for­mant said. The party took place only last Novem­ber 22, a cou­ple of days af­ter Duterte de­clared the vape ban.

De­spite a highly-pub­li­cized move from leg­is­la­tors to have med­i­cal cannabis or mar­i­juana le­gal­ized un­der the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion, Duterte last March said he would never al­low its law­ful use. "Not in my time, maybe some other time, some other pres­i­dent maybe,” he said.

Pro­hib­ited plant

Mar­i­juana is tagged as a banned sub­stance un­der Repub­lic Act (RA) 9165, or the Dan­ger­ous Drugs Act of 2002. It shares that dis­tinc­tion along­side more no­to­ri­ous sub­stances co­caine, heroin, ec­stasy, and shabu.

Un­der the law, mere pos­ses­sion of at least 500 grams of mar­i­juana, or at least 10 grams of mar­i­juana con­cen­trate (resin or resin oil), is pun­ish­able by life in prison plus a fine of up to P10 mil­lion. Car­ry­ing lesser quan­ti­ties of the drug is pun­ish­able by 12 to 20 years in prison plus a fine of up to P500,000.

It was last June when Newsweek re­ported the first recorded death from mar­i­juana use in the United States. The fa­tal­ity, a 39-year-old woman from Louisiana, re­port­edly died from va­p­ing tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol oil.

Known for its short­cut THC, tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol is the main psy­choac­tive com­pound in the mar­i­juana plant that gives that high sen­sa­tion. It can be con­sumed by smok­ing mar­i­juana.

There are al­ready lo­cal of­fi­cials who be­lieve that highly-ad­dic­tive THC or liq­uid mar­i­juana is be­ing abused by Filipinos, par­tic­u­larly those who have the cash to burn. (Betheena Kae Unite, Joseph Pedrajas, Ell­son Quis­morio)

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